By Megan McBride, SIT Graduate Student/World Learning Americorps VISTA
When asked to reflect on her experience on The Sights and Sounds of Italy – Language, Culture, and Travel program with the Experiment in Internatational Living, Yasmine Holloway describes her feelings as “a sensation reminiscent of one who has just woken from a very good dream.”
Yasmine had never left the United States before taking part on the Experiment program but she has always loved languages and desired a chance to explore new cultures. She was drawn to the program’s focus on language training and authentic interactions with local customs and culture. With great excitement, Yasmine participated on the Experiment Italy program as an Outbound Ambassador in the summer of 2008. “I shall be forever grateful to the Experiment, which has motivated me to continue my pursuit of cultural knowledge and to surmount all trivial anxieties and hindrances to make my dreams reality.”
Participants on the Experiment Italy program begin their five week experience by exploring Rome. The architecture in this city awed Yasmine. “I appreciated how I seemed to be surrounded so much by history (that) it was almost tangible. I felt privileged to tread where the ancient people of Rome once walked thousands of years ago.”
Language training classes in Tuscany follow Rome on the Experiment Italy itinerary. Yasmine notes that these classes gave her a solid foundation of the Italian language that she was later able to build upon with her host family in Cosenza. After language training, participants live with a host family and Yasmine was impressed by the effortless manner with which her host family incorporated her into their daily routine. “Meeting my host sister’s friends allowed me to engage in a social environment in which I learned practical Italian and the customs of the locals.”
The Experiment Italy program ends with a quick tour; for Yasmine, highlights of this tour included hiking on Mount Vesuvius and a gondola ride in Venice. Finishing the program was a bitter-sweet experience and Yasmine was troubled by the thought that she would not hear the Italian language or see her host family again. She promised herself that she would return to Italy one day and that has become part of her new dream.
Yasmine stays connected to her dreams of international understanding by participating in her high school’s letter exchange program with students in countries across the globe. Her pen pal is from Germany and Yasmine hopes to use these interactions to continue the cultural learning she started on the Experiment. She is thankful for her experience on Experiment in International Living’s Italy program. “(It) has inspired me to be continually courageous in new and sometimes intimidating situations.”
Yasmine’s future is full of possibility but she is sure about one thing: “I plan to travel more in my lifetime, to meet new people and see new and exciting places.”